March 11, 2019

CLICK HERE  to view the bills we are tracking this session.

Join the Plano Chamber of Commerce on the first Wednesday of the month from 7:30-9am for our monthly Public Policy Committee meeting. This committee discusses legislation and issues that affect the business community. Committee meetings are open to all members in good standing. CLICK HERE for more details. 

Collin County Days will be held March 26-27, 2019 at the Intercontinental Stephen F. Austin Hotel in Austin, TX. CLICK HERE for more information and to reserve your hotel room. 

The Plano Chamber works tirelessly to identify the issues of highest priority to our business community and to act on their behalf.  View the Legislative Priorities  for the 86th Texas Legislative Session for more details.


Governor's Cup Award - On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott accepted Site Selection Magazine's Governor's Cup Award for a record-breaking seventh year in a row. This is the 15th overall win for the state of Texas, more than any other state. Governor Abbott was joined by business leaders and executives from the Metro 8 Chambers of Commerce to accept the award, which highlights top-performing states for job creation, capital investment, and business innovation. Governor Abbott said, "I am honored to once again accept the Governor's Cup on behalf of our tremendous workforce, job creators, and economic development organizations across the state. By working together to strengthen our business environment and bring more investment to every corner of our state, we will continue to grow the economy, create more jobs, and build a brighter future for our state."
Supplemental Appropriations - On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott designated supplemental appropriations as an emergency item. His specific designation says, "Legislation relating to making supplemental appropriations and reductions in appropriations and giving direction including direction regarding reimbursement adjustment authority regarding appropriations."

The Senate was in session Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. On Wednesday, they recessed until Thursday for first reading and referral of bills to committees.
Last Monday, the Senate unanimously approved SB 3 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which would provide a permanent $5,000 annual salary increase for classroom teachers. A Senate floor amendment added librarians. Senator Nelson said, "It has been a decade since teachers received a small raise from the state. It's been two decades since they received a meaningful raise. It's time to give our teachers - all of our teachers - a raise." Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said, "I congratulate Senator Nelson and the Texas Senate for unanimously passing this critical legislation to provide a $5,000 across-the-board pay raise for Texas teachers. Our productive economy has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to accomplish school finance reform and the nearly $4 billion investment to increase teacher pay across-the-board is the first step in accomplishing that goal. SB 3, along with SB 4, school finance reform and SB 12, the Retired Teachers' Security Act, will help us recruit and retain the best teachers in our public schools, which is key to improving student outcomes."
On Tuesday, the Senate unanimously approved SB 10 by Senator Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), which would establish the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to foster collaboration among health-related institutions with the goal of improving early intervention and access to mental health services, addressing psychiatry workforce issues, promoting and coordinating mental health research, and strengthening judicial training on juvenile mental health. Senator Nelson said, "This bill leverages the expertise of our medical schools to address gaps in our mental health system, especially for at-risk youth. Many young people are at risk of suicide, substance abuse or becoming a danger to themselves and others. This bill allows us to provide early intervention and connect these individuals to treatment."
This Week: The Senate will reconvene at 3:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2019.

The House was in session on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week conducting routine business. On Wednesday, the House passed eight resolutions on its first Congratulatory and Memorial Resolutions calendar.
House District 145 - Democrat Christina Morales, president at Felix H. Morales Funeral Home in Houston, won Tuesday's Special Election Run-off to replace former State Representative, now-Senator Carol Alvarado (D-Houston). Morales defeated former State Representative Melissa Noriega, VP of Policy and Partnerships at BakerRipley and former Houston City Council member. The results were:
  • Christina Morales (D-Houston) - 1,824 votes/60.75 percent
  • Melissa Noriega (D-Houston) - 1,178 votes/39.24 percent
Representative-elect Morales will be sworn in after the votes are officially canvassed.
This Week: The House will reconvene at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2019

Last Monday, the House Appropriations Committee considered budget recommendations for Articles I (General Government), IV (Judiciary), V (Public Safety and Criminal Justice), VI (Natural Resources), VII (Business & Economic Development), and VIII (Regulatory).
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee considered budget recommendations for Articles II (Health & Human Services) and III (Education).
This Week : The House Appropriations Committee will meet on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 12:00 noon in E1.030 of the capitol extension to consider budget riders. The committee will also meet on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. in the same location to consider budget recommendations for Article IX, salary requests, CAPPs, information technology, cyber-security, legacy modernization, capital needs, and any remaining pending items.

The  Senate Finance Committee will meet on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. in E1.036 of the capitol extension to take up:
SB 500 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) is the  supplemental appropriations bill. Key provisions:

General Revenue - $1.7 billion
  • FY2019 Medicaid shortfall: $2.1 billion GR, $4.4 billion All Funds
  • Foster care shortfall: $84 million
  • Correctional Managed Health Care shortfall: $160 million
  • Foundation School Program savings: projected $643 million in reduced state cost
Economic Stabilization Fund - $2.5 billion
  • Hurricane Harvey funds: At least $1.2 billion in funds addressing Harvey impact, including approx. $900 million for public schools
  • School safety and hardening: $100 million
  • Governor's disaster grants: $100 million
  • Texas Guaranteed Tuition Plan: $211 million
  • State hospital construction: $300 million
  • State pension liabilities: $300 million each for ERS and TRS

On Tuesday, the House Insurance Committee took up:
HB 565 by Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) would expand Medicaid eligibility to include all persons at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level. In support were representatives of the Children's Defense Fund of Texas, Texas Medical Association, Texas Academy of Family Physicians, Texas Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Pediatric Society, Center for Public Priorities, National Association of Social Workers - Texas Chapter, Texas Hospital Association, Texans Care for Children, Texas Impact, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, League of Women Voters, Children At Risk, National Alliance on Mental Illness, AARP Texas, Texas Brain Injury Providers Alliance, Legacy Community Health, Texas AFL-CIO, Texas NAACP, Texas Women's Healthcare Coalition, American Diabetes Association, United Ways of Texas, Community Health Choice, Teaching Hospitals of Texas, University Health System, Texas Criminal Justice Coalition, Texas Occupational Therapy Association, Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, and eight individuals. In opposition were representatives of Texas Values Action, and Texas Conservative Coalition. It was left pending.
Passed the Senate:
SB 10 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would establish the Texas Mental Health Care Consortium to foster collaboration among health-related institutions with the goal of improving early intervention and access to mental health services. It would:
  • Create a consortium to help coordinate state mental health initiatives across Texas' health-related institutions of higher education;
  • Establish mental health "hubs" at our health-related institutions consisting of psychiatrists, social workers, referral specialists and other mental health professionals;
  • Establish the Child Psychiatry Access Network (CPAN), which will allow pediatricians and primary care providers to consult with mental health experts on treatment options for their patients -- which is key because 75 percent of the time these providers are the first to detect mental health issues, yet many do not feel comfortable providing mental health care;
  • Establish a program allowing youth to access services through telemedicine;
  • Increase residency opportunities for psychiatry students in community settings;
  • Expand and coordinate mental health research at our health-related institutions; and
  • Direct that judges be educated about mental health resources in their community.
The committee substitute and three floor amendments were adopted and it passed the Senate unanimously .
Surprise Medical Billing - Last Friday, Senator Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) and Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) announced the filing of legislation to end surprise medical billing. Senator Hancock's bill is SB 1264, and Martinez Fischer plans to file the House companion bill. Senator Hancock said, "These measures would remove patients from the center of billing disputes and would prevent consumers from receiving debilitating charges from out-of-network medical providers." Bob Jackson, state director of AARP Texas said, "Texans are fed up with surprise medical bills, and consumers deserve to be held harmless from the anguish and shock that they encounter due to billing disputes between insurers and medical providers. SB 1264 says that when a patient gets treatment from an out-of-network medical provider, the patient will not be held financially responsible for amounts greater than what they would owe if the provider were in-network. In other words, the patients could not be sent a surprise medical bill, or what's also known as a "balance bill," which is the difference between what an out-of-network doctor or facility charges and what insurers pay. Under the legislation, medical providers, such as physicians and hospitals, would be able to bring their payment disputes over the fees for out-of-network services to an independent mediator."
Hurricane Harvey Recovery  - On Wednesday, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and members of the Senate held a press conference to announce the filing of three bills aimed at helping communities recover from Hurricane Harvey and preparing for future disasters. Lt. Governor Patrick said, "Some areas of the state saw 60 inches of rain and damage estimates topped $125 billion. We said at the time, we would dedicate ourselves to helping people rebuild their homes, their businesses, and their communities. You can't prevent 60 inches of rain falling, but we can do everything we can to mitigate those issues in the future. $3 billion will be drawn from the Rainy Day Fund to pay for Harvey recovery: $1.8 billion to fund these three bills, and $1.2 billion to pay back recovery and response costs incurred by local and state agencies during the last year and a half. Some of that money will also go to school districts to cover tax revenue lost due to the devaluation of property from storm damage." The three bills are:
SB 6 by Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) would keep county and city leaders informed on the best practices for disaster response. Senator Kolkhorst said, "The Lt. Governor and Texas Senate has studied what we learned - what worked and what didn't work, the rescues and recovery. This bill would direct the Department of Emergency Management at the Department of Public Safety to develop a manual to serve as a guide for local officials on debris removal, applying for federal aid, working with non-profit relief organizations and handling housing needs in both the short- and long-term. It will serve as a road map to prepare our state for future hurricanes and natural disasters. Additionally, it would commission experts in disaster response to develop a system to train and credential emergency management directors to oversee response and recovery efforts."
SB 7 by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) would create a special fund to pay for flood mitigation projects, hurricane recovery and provide matching funds to draw down federal dollars. Representative Creighton said, "Many federal programs have very generous fund matches, up to nine federal dollars for every state dollar, but local entities still have to come up with the initial funds to draw down that federal aid. The framework created under the bill would provide that state money. We all know over years and years, we've been a donor state in many different categories. It's time to get our Texas dollars back and working for us. Flood mitigation projects identified and developed by regional flood planning authorities could be paid for through this fund, in the form of both grants and low- or no-interest loans."
SB 8 by Charles Perry (R-Lubbock) would create a statewide flood plan. Senator Perry said, "The historic flooding from the hurricane highlighted flood mitigation needs that have gone unaddressed for too long. Under the bill, the Texas Water Development Board would divide the state into flood planning regions based on river basins and allow local officials and stakeholders to develop plans tailored to their area. The agency would ensure that regions work together and that a mitigation plan in one area doesn't conflict with a mitigation plan in another. SB 8 is meant to ensure the communication and coordination among all of the local entities, that have good ideas, will not conflict with other good ideas in the region. These regional plans would be combined into the statewide flood plan."
This Week:
The Senate Water & Rural Affairs Committee will meet on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 3:00 p.m. or upon adjournment in E1.012 of the capitol extension to take up SB 6, SB 7, and SB 8.

On Tuesday, the House Natural Resources Committee took up:
HB 478 and HJR 81 by Dade Phelan (R-Port Neches) would create the Flood Infrastructure Fund to be administered by the Texas Water Development Board, and specifies that economically distressed areas would receive preference in applications for funding. They were left pending.
HB 1066 by Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would require a groundwater conservation district to extend a permit for the transfer of groundwater from the district before its expiration date for a term that is not shorter than the term of an operating permit for the production of water to be transferred that is in effect at the time of the extension, with option to renew. It was left pending.
This Week: The House Natural Resources Committee will meet on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment in E2.010 to take up:
HB 807 by Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) would require the Interregional Planning Council to adopt a new state water plan every five years.
HB 817 by Tracy King (D-Batesville) would prohibit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality from issuing a new permit or permit amendment authorizing the direct discharge of waste or pollutants into any water in the contributing zone or any portion of the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer.

On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee took up:
SB 11 by Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) would establish several new programs and requirements related to improving public school safety and student mental health. In support were representatives of Texas School Counselors Association, Texas Counseling Association, Mental Health America of Greater Houston, Texas Association of School Psychologists, Texas Association of School Administrators, Texas PTA, Texas Classroom Teachers Association, Texas Association of School Psychologists, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Texas Council of Community Centers, Association of Texas Professional Educators and Arlington, Wylie and Texas City ISD's. In opposition were representatives of Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, Dallas Eagle Forum, Students Demand Action and 12 individuals. It was left pending.
Also on Tuesday, the House Public Education Committee took up:
HB 525 by Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) would eliminate the requirement for fourth and seventh grade writing assessments and eighth grade social studies assessments and the end of course exams for English II and United States history. It was left pending.
HB 671 by Ken King (R-Canadian) would eliminate end-of-course exams and other assessments not required by federal law. It was left pending.
HB 843 by Drew Springer (R-Muenster) would allow post-secondary readiness assessment instruments to be used by Texas Education Agency for accountability purposes and would add students who successfully complete an internship, students who are awarded an associate degree and students who satisfy performance standards on Algebra II or English III to be considered for accountability purposes. It was left pending.
HB 851 by Dan Huberty (R-Humble) would eliminate the sunset date (September 1, 2019) on statutes authorizing the use of individual graduation committees and alternative methods to satisfy high school graduation requirements. It was left pending.
HB 1244 by Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) would require school districts to administer a civics test to a student in the foundation high school program and make it a requirement for high school graduation. The civics test would consist of all of the questions on the civics test administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as part of the naturalization process. It was initially left pending, but was voted out favorably on Wednesday.
HB 1480 by Gary VanDeaver (R-New Boston) would require school districts to establish an accelerated learning committee for each student who does not perform satisfactorily on the third grade mathematics or reading assessment. It was left pending.
Passed the Senate:
SB 3 by Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) would:
  • Provide a permanent $5,000 annual salary increase above their 2018-2019 school year salary to approximately 350,000 classroom teachers;
  • Direct that the pay increase is paid for by the state with funding flowing through a new Classroom Teacher Salary Allotment;
  • Stipulate that the additional state funding must pass through districts for the sole purpose of raising each classroom teacher's pay by $5,000 over their salary for the 2018-19 school year;
  • Clarify that it does not preclude districts from offering merit raises; and
  • Have an estimated cost of $3.7 billion in the FY 20-21 budget.
The committee substitute and one floor amendment were adopted and it passed the Senate unanimously .
Retired Teachers' Security Act - On Monday, Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) filed SB 12, the Retired Teachers' Security Act. Senator Huffman said, "Currently, the Teacher Retirement System (TRS) provides retirement benefits to over 420,000 people and is the 13th largest pension fund in the world. As of today, the amortization period for the pension fund is approximately 87 years and the unfunded liability is around $47 billion. Without a long-term, cost-efficient proposal to pay down the debt, like this one, TRS retirees may never see another benefit enhancement, as the Legislature cannot grant a benefit enhancement by law unless the fund is actuarially sound. Furthermore, by addressing TRS's solvency problem with a conservative plan, the legislature can secure the retirement for teachers. To move the TRS pension fund toward actuarial soundness, the proposed bill would increase state, district, and active employees' pension contributions over a six-year period. It would also provide a '13th check' to all retired school employees, putting more money in retirees' hands immediately." Lt. Governor Dan Patrick added, "Aside from a parent, no one has more impact on the success of a child than a teacher and no one has had more impact on the success of Texas, in building the intellectual capital and ingenuity for the future progress of our state, than our retired teachers. That's why I have made the Retired Teachers' Security Act with a 13th check a top priority. Just as SB 3 provides an across-the-board pay raise to teachers next year, SB 12, will provide a 13th check in 2020."
Texas Plan to Transform School Finance - On Tuesday, Representative Dan Huberty (R-Humble), Chairman of the House Public Education Committee, held a press conference announcing the filing of HB 3, a comprehensive school finance reform bill. Speaker Dennis Bonnen kicked off the press conference saying, "I applaud Chairman Huberty for filing HB 3 and for getting the Texas House one step closer to passing transformational school finance reform. Texas children can no longer wait for action - the time is now. Chairman Huberty has worked tirelessly to thoughtfully craft this legislation that is built upon years of research, data and testimony. I applaud his commitment to Texas students and teachers, and know that through HB 3, the unprecedented investments we're making in classrooms will elevate Texas' education system to be the envy of the world." Representative Huberty said, "This is transformative. This is going to make a difference. The steps laid out in HB 3 will inject nearly $9 billion into the system, devoting more state revenue than ever before to the education of our 5.4 million public school children in Texas. I am honored to present this legislation and look forward to working with the more than 80 House members who have already signed on to co-author this bill." More than half of the members of the House stood in support of Chairman Huberty, and Representatives Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio), Ken King (R-Canadian), Alma Allen (D-Houston), and Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) joined Chairman Huberty in delivering remarks in support of HB 3. Specifically HB 3 would:
  • Add approximately $9 billion in funding above enrollment growth and current law entitlement over the next two years;
  • Increase the Basic Allotment from $5,140 to $6,030, an $890 increase per student;
  • Lower school property tax rates by 4 cents statewide;
  • Reduce recapture from $7.7 billion to $4.7 billion for the biennium ($3 billion or 38 percent reduction);
  • Establish an early reading program that funds full-day, high quality Pre-K for low-income students;
  • Raise the minimum teacher salary schedule and allocate an addition $140 million in funding for a teacher quality program, providing districts with the resources for recruiting and retaining teachers in the classroom;
  • Enhance the yield on the "enrichment" pennies, allowing schools to earn and keep more money for property taxes levied above the standard Tier 1 tax rate;
  • Create a professional development grant program to train teachers in blended learning instruction;
  • Dedicate more money for dual language immersion education;
  • Equip districts with the resources needed to identify and intervene at the earliest signs of student dyslexia and related disorders;
  • Establish an extended year program that allows districts to combat "summer slide" by providing 30 days of half-day instruction for students in grades PreK-5 during the summer months;
  • Update the transportation funding model from a linear density model to a simplified one dollar per mile reimbursement;
  • Allocate resources to low-income students on a sliding scale (rather than an equal weight) to prioritize students with the highest needs, and provide more funding to schools with higher concentrations of economically disadvantaged students and generational poverty;
  • Quadruple the amount allocated to fast growth districts to build and equip new instructional facilities funding to $100 million per year;
  • Expand career and technology education programs for students in grades 6-12 (previously grades 9-12), making students more skilled and better prepared for the workforce or post-secondary education; and
  • Establish a grant program for districts to offer parents of economically disadvantaged students with learning disabilities in grades 3-8 access to additional services to help improve educational performance.
Governor Greg Abbott said, "We have an obligation to students, parents, and teachers to reform our school finance system and elevate education in Texas. We promised Texans that this session would be transformative and address big issues like school finance and property tax reform, and today's announcement by Chairman Huberty is a big step in honoring that pledge. I look forward to working with Chairman Huberty, as well as Lieutenant Governor Patrick, Speaker Bonnen, Senator Taylor and all members to better fund our schools, increase teacher pay, and put our students on a pathway to greater academic success."
The Whole Student Agenda - On Wednesday, Representative James Talarico (R-Round Rock) announced a legislative package with 24 bills that he is calling "The Whole Student Agenda." Representative Talarico said, "These bills will help to keep Texas students safe, healthy, and ready through bolstering mental health services, scaling suicide prevention programs, and strengthening practical curricula like financial literacy, sex education, and civics. Our current education system is heavily weighted toward academics, but there's more to educating our students than reading, writing, and math. During a time of heightened concern about school safety, we must do more to teach the whole student. This bipartisan agenda will ensure our kids are safe, healthy, and ready to thrive both inside and outside the classroom."
This Week : The House Pensions, Investments & Financial Services Committee will meet on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 8:00 a.m. in E1.026 of the capitol extension to take up:
HB 293 by Ken King (R-Canadian) would exempt school district chief financial officers or investment officers from investment training requirements if the school district does not invest district funds or only deposits those funds in interest-bearing deposit accounts or certificates of deposits.
The House Public Education Committee will meet on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 at 10:30 a.m. or upon adjournment in E2.036 of the capitol extension to take up:
HB 3 by Dan Huberty (R-Humble), a comprehensive school finance reform bill.

On Tuesday, the Senate Property Tax Committee took up:
SB 955 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would remove the authority for a taxing unit to challenge the overall level of appraisal of a category of property. In support were representatives of Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, Ryan LLC, Texas Association of Realtors, Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals, Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Citizens for Appraisal reform and two individuals. There was no opposition. It was left pending.
SB 956 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would authorize an appraisal review board to correct an inaccuracy in the appraised value of tangible personal property that is the result of an error or omission in a rendition statement. In support were representatives of Ryan LLC, Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals, Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Citizens for Appraisal Reform and two individuals. There was no opposition. It was left pending.
SB 1006 by Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) would exempt income-producing tangible personal property from ad valorem taxes if it has a taxable value of less than $2,500 instead of $500. In support were representatives of Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, Ryan LLC, Texas Association of Property Tax Professionals, Association of Electric Companies of Texas, Texas Association of Manufacturers, Citizens for Appraisal Reform, Texas Association of Appraisal Districts, National Federation of Independent Business, and two individuals. There was no opposition. It was left pending.
On Wednesday, the House Ways & Means Committee took up:
HB 569 by Giovanni Capriglione (R-Keller) would require school district tax bills to break out the percentages of taxes used to make recapture payments compared to amounts retained by the school district, and to show comparisons of the current tax year to previous tax years. It was left pending.
HB 639 by Drew Springer (R-Muenster) would restrict the eligibility of property used by an institution of higher education for ecological research to be appraised as open space that to land that has been used primarily for that purpose by the institution for five of the preceding seven years. It was left pending.
HB 994 by Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) would institute a pilot program in Atascosa County allowing small property tax protests to be appealed to a Justice of the Peace court. It was left pending.
Reported from Committee:
HB 305 by Dennis Paul (R-Webster) would require state agencies and political subdivisions that have taxing authority to create a publicly accessible Internet website providing the entity's contact information, including phone, address, and email; each elected officer, each candidate for elective office, the date and location of the next election, and notice of each open meeting of the governing board. It was voted out favorably as substituted from the House State Affairs Committee.
HB 705 by Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) would authorize a county to adopt or abolish a sales tax by voter approval of up to one percent to offset a reduction in property taxes. The committee substitute adds cities. It was reported favorably as substituted from the House Ways and Means Committee.
On Monday, the Senate State Affairs Committee took up:
SB 421 by Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) is an eminent domain reform bill. It would apply only to private entities with statutory eminent domain authority. It would:
  • add to the existing bona fide offer a requirement that the entity seeking to acquire the property certify that the offer is not a "low-ball" offer.
  • establish minimum easement terms including provisions covering damages for tree, recreational, or agricultural loss. Would require the Attorney General to prepare a standard easement form and allow the attorney general to enforce the use of the easement form in a suit for injunctive relief.
  • provide that if an entity seeks to acquire property from four or more landowners in the same county, the entity must notify the court with jurisdiction over condemnation proceedings. The court would have 30 days to select a date for a public meeting facilitated by the court at which the entity must present specified information, such as the description of the public use, easement terms, and the method and factors used in determining the market value. Entities would be prohibited from contacting landowners until the 8th day after the meeting. The court would have to certify that the entity held the meeting, and the entity could not acquire property until so certified.
  • impose penalties based on the difference between the entity's initial offer and the special commissioners' award. The penalty would be 25 percent if the award exceeds the offer by 25 - 50 percent; 30 percent for an award exceeding the offer by 50 - 100 percent; and 35 percent above that. The penalties would attach regardless of whether the entity objects to the special commissioners' award or appeals to district court; and regardless of damages ultimately awarded by the court.
It was left pending .
Texas Farm Bureau Secretary-Treasurer Scott Frazier testified in support of the bill. He said, "Texas landowners often face an uphill battle in eminent domain cases, but SB 421 will create a more fair, transparent and accountable process by mandating that all easement agreements used for pipelines or electric transmission lines include minimum protections for landowners. Requiring standard easement terms ensures landowners get basic protections for the use of their property. Easement terms are held as leverage over the landowners. I can make headway with the company negotiating important protections into the company's easement form, but if we can't agree on fair compensation, I risk losing those easement terms. If I'm taken to court, the easement is written exclusively by the company and filed with the condemnation petition. I have to accept whatever terms they choose to give me."
Texas Association of Manufacturers President Tony Bennett testified in opposition. He said, "SB 421, as drafted, is a major threat to keeping our infrastructure network functioning efficiently and sustaining the quality business environment our great state is known for across the globe. Major delays in any permits to either build manufacturing plants or connect vital arteries to these operations already cost our economy millions of dollars each day. Delays in construction activity, plant payrolls, local/state tax revenues, vendor purchases and other ripple effects on our regional economies are real and substantial. Property rights should be protected. However, SB 421 goes too far and holds hostage a key element of our economy and the quality jobs and tax wealth our Texas communities and families depend on."
This Week: The Senate State Affairs Committee will meet on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 9:00 a.m. in the Senate Chamber to take up:
SB 552 by Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) would require the notice to a property owner of the owner's rights concerning the examination or survey by an entity with the power of eminent domain to include a statement that:
  • The entity is responsible for damages to the property arising from the survey;
  • The property owner has the right to refuse permission to enter the property to conduct a survey;
  • The property owner has the right to negotiate terms under which the survey may be conducted; and
  • The entity has the right to sue a property owner to obtain a court order authorizing the survey if the property owner refuses.
SB 553 by Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) would require, if an initial offer includes property that the entity is not seeking to acquire by eminent domain, a separate identification of the real property that the entity does not seek to acquire by condemnation and a separate offer for that property.
SB 554 by Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) would change the definition of "actual progress" in an eminent domain proceeding by requiring three of the specified actions rather than two and by eliminating two actions from the list: the acquisition of a tract or parcel adjacent to the property for the same public use project for which the owner's land was acquired from the list of actions and the adoption by a governing body of a development plan that indicates the entity will not complete more than one action before the 10th anniversary of the acquisition of the owner's property.
Are your friends or colleagues interested in receiving regular updates from the 86th Legislative Session? Forward this email or  CLICK HERE  to sign up for the weekly email updates. 
Advocacy initiatives are made possible with support from: